Archive for the 'Seasonal' Category

The Cherry Tree Carol

h1 Monday, December 1st, 2014

Brought to you from the 15th century, this carol (Child Ballad 54) tells the story of Mary and Joseph before the baby Jesus was born.

[F] JOSEPH was an old man,
and an old man was he,
[When he courted lovely [Dm] Mary,
the queen of [F] Galilee. X2]

Joseph and Mary walked
through an orchard good,
Where was cherries and berries,
so red as any blood. X2

Joseph and Mary walked
through an orchard green,
Where was berries and cherries,
as thick as might be seen. X2

O then bespoke Mary,
so meek and so mild:
‘Pluck me one cherry, Joseph,
for I am with child.’ X2

O then bespoke Joseph,
with words most unkind:
‘Let him pluck thee a cherry
that brought thee with child.’X2

O then bespoke the babe,
from within his mother’s womb:
‘Bow down then the tallest tree,
for my mother to have some.’X2

Then bowed down the highest tree
unto his mother’s hand;
She cried, See, dear Joseph,
I have cherries at command.X2

O then bespoke Joseph:
‘I have done Mary wrong;
But cheer up, my dearest,
and be not thou cast down.’ X2

Then Mary plucked a cherry,
as red as the blood,
Then Mary went homeward
with her heavy load.X2

Then Mary took her babe,
and sat him down on her knee,
Saying, My dear son, please tell me
what this world will be.X2

‘O I shall be as dead, mother,
as the stones in this wall;
O the stones in the streets, mother,
shall mourn for me all.X2

‘Upon Easter-day, mother,
my uprising shall be;
O the sun and the moon, mother,
shall both rise with me.’X2

Winter’s Almost Gone

h1 Saturday, February 1st, 2014

Photo by Camilla McGuinn

Another “Winter Song” during one the coldest winters in North America, due to several successive “Polar Vortices.” A song brought to mind by the passing of the great folk legend and personal mentor, Pete Seeger. Click here to see our tribute to Pete.

I’ve added new words and new music as part of the “Folk Process” a term Pete’s father Charles Seeger came up with to describe how folk songs change by one means or another; sometimes because they were passed by the oral tradition and the person listening didn’t hear it properly. Or as in this case where the song was modified to fit a different circumstance. Pete Seeger found his time to “travel on.” Our thoughts and prayers are with his family. We will miss him!


[A] Done laid around and stayed around
This old town too long
Winter’s almost gone
[D] Spring’s a-comin’ [A] on

[A] Done laid around and stayed around
This old town too long
[D] And I feel like it’s [E] time to travel [A] on

Yes I [D] feel like it’s [E] time
[A] Time to travel [F#m] on
[D] I feel like it’s [E] time to travel [A] on

I’ve waited here for ‘most a year
Waitin’ for the sun to shine
Waitin’ for the sun to shine
Hopin’ you’d be mine

Waited here for ‘most a year
Hoping you’d change your mind
Now I feel like it’s time to travel on

Yes I feel like it’s time
Time to travel on
I feel like it’s time to travel on

Well, the chili wind it soon will end
I’ll be on my way
Gone a lonesome day
Going home to stay

Chilly wind it soon will end
I’ll be on my way
Cause I feel like it’s time to travel on

Yes I feel like it’s time
Time to travel on
I feel like it’s time to travel on

2014 McGuinn Music

It Came Upon A Midnight Clear

h1 Sunday, December 1st, 2013

The poem for this carol was composed in 1849 by Edmund Sears at the request of his friend, William Parsons Lunt, pastor of United First Parish Church, Quincy, Massachusetts. It was not until a year later that Richard Storrs Willis, a composer who trained under Felix Mendelssohn came up with the beautiful melody.

I have recorded this with layers of Rickenbacker 12-string guitar to emulate bells ringing from an old grey stone church tower.


[G] It came [C] upon the [G] midnight clear,
That glorious [C] song of [D] old,
[G] From angels [C] bending [G] near the earth,
To [C] touch their [D] harps of [G] gold:
[Bm} "Peace on the earth, [Em] goodwill to men,
From [D] heaven’s [A7} all-gracious [D] King.”
[G] The world in [C] solemn [G] stillness lay,
[C] To hear the [D] angels [G] sing.

Still through the cloven skies they come,
With peaceful wings unfurled,
And still their heavenly music floats
O’er all the weary world;
Above its sad and lowly plains,
They bend on hovering wing,
And ever o’er its Babel sounds
The blessèd angels sing.

Yet with the woes of sin and strife
The world has suffered long;
Beneath the angel-strain have rolled
Two thousand years of wrong;
And man, at war with man, hears not
The love-song which they bring;
O hush the noise, ye men of strife,
And hear the angels sing.

And ye, beneath life’s crushing load,
Whose forms are bending low,
Who toil along the climbing way
With painful steps and slow,
Look now! for glad and golden hours
come swiftly on the wing.
O rest beside the weary road,
And hear the angels sing!

For lo!, the days are hastening on,
By prophet bards foretold,
When with the ever-circling years
Comes round the age of gold
When peace shall over all the earth
Its ancient splendors fling,
And the whole world give back the song
Which now the angels sing.

We Three Kings

h1 Saturday, December 1st, 2012

This is a Christmas carol I’ve never tried to play before. As I went through the chords, it struck me they were very much like the patterns folk singer Bob Gibson favored. A good example is his version of “Wayfaring Stranger” I recorded for the Folk Den back in May of 1997. I’ve always loved songs that progress from Em to G and C. The sound of a minor chord rising to a major chord is uplifting!.

[Em] We three kings of [D] Orient [Em] are
Bearing gifts we [D] traveled so [Em] far
[G] Field and [D] fountain, [G] moor and [C] mountain
[D] Following yonder [Em] star

Born a King on Bethlehem’s plain
Gold I bring to crown Him again
King forever, ceasing never
Over us all to reign

[G] O Star of wonder, [C] star of [G] night
Star with royal [C] beauty [G] bright
[G] Westward [D] leading, [C] still [D] proceeding
[G] Guide us to Thy [C] perfect [G] light

Frankincense to offer have I
Incense owns a Deity nigh
Prayer and praising, all men raising
Worship Him, God most high

Glorious now behold Him arise
King and God and Sacrifice
Alleluia, Alleluia
Earth to heav’n replies

Myrrh is mine, its bitter perfume
Breathes of life of gathering gloom
Sorrowing, sighing, bleeding, dying
Sealed in the stone-cold tomb

God Rest Ye Merry Gentlmen

h1 Thursday, December 1st, 2011

God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen as described on

God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen was first published in 1833 when it appeared in “Christmas Carols Ancient and Modern,” a collection of seasonal carols gathered by William B. Sandys. The lyrics of God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen are traditional olde English and are reputed to date back to the 15th century although the author is unknown.. It is believed that this particular carol was sung to the gentry by town watchmen who earned additional money during the Christmas season. God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen continues to be enjoyed. The lyrics to this simple carol are reputed to be one of the oldest carols.

I recorded the vocals and acoustic guitar at the Lee’s “Farm Niente” over Thanksgiving 2011. When I got home I overdubbed the Rickenbacker 370/12/RM JETGLO which Bill Lee graciously gave me.


[Dm] God rest ye merry, gentlemen
 let nothing you dismay

Remember, Christ, our Saviour
 was born on Christmas day

[Gm] To save us all from [Dm] Satan’s power 
when we were gone [C] astray

[Dm] O tidings of comfort and joy,
 comfort and [C] joy

[Dm] O tidings of [C] comfort and [Dm] joy

In Bethlehem, in Israel,
 this blessed Babe was born

And laid within a manger
 upon this blessed morn

To which His Mother Mary 
did nothing take in scorn

O tidings of comfort and joy,
 comfort and joy

O tidings of comfort and joy

From God our Heavenly Father
 a blessed Angel came;

And unto certain Shepherds
 brought tidings of the same:

How that in Bethlehem was born
 the Son of God by Name.

O tidings of comfort and joy,
 comfort and joy

O tidings of comfort and joy

“Fear not then,” said the Angel,
” Let nothing you affright,

This day is born a Saviour
 of a pure Virgin bright,

To free all those who trust in Him 
from Satan’s power and might.
O tidings of comfort and joy,
 comfort and joy

O tidings of comfort and joy

The shepherds at those tidings
 rejoiced much in mind,

And left their flocks a-feeding
In tempest, storm and wind:

And went to Bethlehem straightway
 the Son of God to find.

O tidings of comfort and joy,
 comfort and joy

O tidings of comfort and joy

And when they came to Bethlehem
 where our dear Saviour lay,

They found Him in a manger,
 where oxen feed on hay;

His Mother Mary kneeling down,
 unto the Lord did pray.

O tidings of comfort and joy,
 comfort and joy

O tidings of comfort and joy

Now to the Lord sing praises,
 all you within this place,

And with true love and brotherhood
 each other now embrace;

This holy tide of Christmas
 all other doth deface.

O tidings of comfort and joy,
 comfort and joy

O tidings of comfort and joy

The Squirrel

h1 Friday, April 1st, 2011

A sweet little folk song to celebrate Spring in the Northern Hemisphere!
[D] Squirrel He’s a funny little thing, carries a bushy [A7] tail
[D] He steals away the farmer’s corn, and he hides it on the rail
And he hides it on the [A7] rail

A partridge she’s a pretty little thing, she carries a speckled breast
She steals away the farmer’s corn, she carries it to her nest
And she carries it to her nest

The Possum he’s a cunning little thing, he travels after dark
He ain’t afraid of any old thing till he hears old Rattler bark
Till he hears old Rattler bark

A raccoon’s tail is ringed all around, possum’s tail is bare
A rabbit ain’t got no tail at all, just a little wee bunch of hair
Just a little wee bunch of hair

Christmas Is Coming

h1 Tuesday, December 1st, 2009

The lyrics of Christmas Is Coming stem from the traditional English Christmas feast at which geese were eaten. Children learned that this festive period is a time when each person is encouraged to give to charity, even if all they can give is a half penny.

The first documented reference to a penny is from around 790 AD when it was minted in silver. The design frequently changed, depicting various rulers. The Anglo-Saxon penny had a cross on the reverse side, a symbol of Christianity. These crosses were used as guidelines for cutting pennies into halves and quarters. The ha’penny (half a penny) and farthing (a fourth of a penny) were minted later. The word farthing was derived from ‘fourthing’. The penny changed from silver to copper in 1797 then to bronze in 1860 and finally to copper plated steel in 1992. 

I recorded this on Thanksgiving Day 2009 in Charleston South Carolina at an inn across from Historic St. Philips Church. The bells were ringing as I laid down my guitar track and I captured two minutes of the lovely sound which I blended into the final mix. The bells just happened to be in the right key.


[C] Christmas is [Dm] coming, the [Am] geese are getting [C] fat

Won’t you please to put a [F] penny in the old [G] man’s [C] hat;

If you haven’t got a [Dm] penny, a [Am] ha’penny will [C] do,

If you haven’t got a [F] ha’penny [G] God bless [C] you!

Go Tell It On The Mountain

h1 Monday, December 1st, 2008

I bought a mandolin in Ft. Worth Texas on this tour and decided to use it here. I remember hearing this song on a vinyl two record set with a pop-up Christmas scene called “Home For Christmas,” sung by Mahalia Jackson. It has always been a favorite.

More From Wikipedia:

“Go Tell It on the Mountain” is an African-American spiritual dating back to at least 1865 that has been sung and recorded by many gospel and secular performers. It is considered a Christmas carol because its original lyric celebrates the Nativity: “Go tell it on the mountain, over the hills and everywhere; go tell it on the mountain, that Jesus Christ is born.”

In 1963, Peter Yarrow, Noel “Paul” Stookey, and Mary Travers, along with their musical director, Milt Okun, adapted and rewrote “Go Tell It on the Mountain” as “Tell It on the Mountain”, their lyrics referring specifically to Exodus and employing the line “Let my people go,” but implicitly referring to the Civil Rights struggle of the early ’60s. The song was recorded by Yarrow, Stookey and Travers on their Peter, Paul and Mary album In the Wind and was also a moderate hit single for them. (US #33 pop, 1964). Civil rights activist Fannie Lou Hamer used this rewritten version of the song as an anthem during the mid-1960s.

Other artists, besides Peter, Paul and Mary, who have recorded the song (chiefly on either Christmas-themed music albums or collections of spirituals or folk songs) include:

* The New Christy Minstrels
* Simon & Garfunkel
* Bob Marley
* Mahalia Jackson
* Fred Hammond
* Kirk Franklin
* Candi Staton
* Frank Sinatra & Bing Crosby
* James Taylor
* Cece Winans
* Anne Murray
* Vanessa L. Williams
* Jewel
* Dustin Kensrue
* Bruce Cockburn
* Little Big Town
* Sherill Milnes
* John Rutter and the Cambridge Singers
* Sara Evans
* Jim Nabors
* Toby Keith
* Peter Tosh
* The Blind Boys of Alabama
* Oh Susanna – for the holiday compilation album, Maybe This Christmas Too? (2003)
* Dolly Parton
* Carola Häggkvist
* Bobby Darin
* Art Paul Schlosser (who rewrote the lyrics for kids with the title, “Go Tell it On the Swingset”)
* The Gas House Gang


[F] Go, tell it on the mountain,
[C] Over the hills and [F] everywhere
Go, tell it on the mountain,
That [F] Jesus [C] Christ is [F] born.

[C] The shepherds feared and [F] trembled,
[C] When low above the [F] earth,
[C] Rang out the angels chorus
That [G7] hailed our Savior’s [C] bi–rth.

While shepherds kept their watching
o’er silent flocks by night,
Behold, throughout the heavens
There shone a holy li–ght

And lo! When they had heard it,
They all bowed down to pray,
Then travelled on together,
To where the Baby la–y.

Down in a lowly manger
The humble Christ was born
And God sent us salvation
That blessed Christmas mo–rn.

O Come All Ye Faithful

h1 Saturday, December 1st, 2007

In keeping with the Folk Den tradition, this is a Christmas song for December. I have wonderful memories of singing this at my grandparents’ house in Chicago with my family in the mid 50s. My grandmother and grandfather would sit at the piano and play together and we would all harmonize, while recording it on a 78 rpm vinyl disc recorder. The melody is truly captivating. Merry Christmas 2007!
G] O come, all ye [D] faithful, [G] joyful and triumphant, [D]
[Em] Come ye, [D] O come ye, to [Bm] [A] Bethlehem [D]
[G] Come and [D] behold Him, [Em] born the King of [D] angels;

[G] O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
[C] O come, let us [D] adore [C] Him,
[G] Christ [D] the [G] Lord.

True God of true God, Light from Light Eternal,
Lo, he shuns not the Virgin’s womb;
Son of the Father, begotten, not created;

O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
Christ the Lord.

Sing, choirs of angels, sing in exultation;
Sing, all ye citizens of heaven above!
Glory to God, all glory in the highest;

O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
Christ the Lord.

Child, for us sinners poor and in the manger,
We would embrace Thee, with love and awe;
Who would not love Thee, loving us so dearly?

O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
Christ the Lord.

Yea, Lord, we greet Thee, born this happy morning;
Jesus, to Thee be glory given;
Word of the Father, now in flesh appearing.

O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
Christ the Lord.

Joy To The World

h1 Friday, December 1st, 2006

This is one of my favorite Christmas Carols. I decided to record it as an instrumental on my Rickenbacker 370/12/RM. Originally named “Antioch,” Mason’s original score said “from George Frederick Handel.”

The tune is named after the city of Antioch, Syria, where believers were first called “Christians”;
(Acts 11:26).

Words: Isaac Watts, 1719
Music: Lowell Mason, 1848

Joy to the world, the Lord is come!
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare Him room,
And heaven and nature sing,
And heaven and nature sing,
And heaven, and heaven, and nature sing.

Joy to the world, the Savior reigns!
Let men their songs employ;
While fields and floods, rocks, hills and plains
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat, repeat, the sounding joy.

No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found,
Far as the curse is found,
Far as, far as, the curse is found.

He rules the world with truth and grace,
And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders, wonders, of His love.